Chummus is fun to say and eat! (Holidays in Korea + Presidential Election)

I’m trying to make a habit of posting more frequently so I can fill this blog with some actual thoughts versus updates of what I do every weekend… and also so that each post isn’t like a chapter in a novel to read.

Last year around this time I walk (or more likely, drive) through the streets of LA and there are lovely twinkling lights that make you feel all warm and cozy (because it’s rarely truly cold in LA – and I know that for a fact now that I’ve lived through the beginning of winter here) and the smell of pumpkin and gingerbread and chocolate candy cane mint sprinkled with polk-a-dots lattes fill the air (since there is a Starbucks on every corner – there is no escaping it) and basically the holiday spirit weasels its way into your heart whether you like it or not. Los Angeles also has a very large Jewish population so you also see menorah’s and the star of David and Hannukah gelt and dreidels and sufganiyot poppin’ up all over the place as well. Usually I’m getting ready for family dinners, running around buying gifts for people that will probably be returned anyhow, and feeling overwhelmed that the closing of another year has arrived and “oh my god! I can’t believe it’s been a whole year, what am I doing with my life?!” Oh wait, I’m Jewish, whatever, Rosh Hashanah is my new year anyway.

This year has been quite different from all the previous years… firstly because the holiday spirit did not hijack the environment with bold lights and fragrances and overall cheer from strangers that normally pay no attention to you… but also because I’m not near my family and friends that I have in LA. Many foreigners get really depressed around this time of the year because it magnifies the distance between yourself and those you love back home and around the world. I must admit I can relate to this, but did not feel it as much as some of the other people here did. I appreciate and enjoy the holidays at home, but I always have mixed emotions about it because it’s often coupled with some stress… that’s a whole different story though that I can delve into another time if you are interested.

Nonetheless… I wanted to pay tribute to my Israeli/Jewish heritage and traditions… I am not religious but grew up very culturally Israeli. Many people here in Korea have never heard of Hannukah or know anything about it. Increasing awareness of other cultures is important to me for myself and for the people I interact with, so I made a powerpoint to educate my students about Hannukah and taught them to play the dreidel game. Even a lot of my foreigner friends here have never been to a Hannukah dinner and knew very little about it, so I decided to host one! After talking to my mom and grandmother I found a solution to my “where the hell do I get a menorah in South Korea dilemma” and opted to make a homemade one (which could have come out nicer had I not put it together 5 min before dinner). I also told a very compressed and concise version of the story of Hannukah (hopefully it was also accurate), and made tons of food! There were no sufganiyot which was a little sad, but I’ll just make up for it by eating twice as many next year (yes! I have an excuse now).

just wrap anything you can find in tin foil, melt some wax into a bottle cap or something that has a similar shape, and BAM! You have a homemade menorah :D

These are the 5 people that live closest to me (John, Robert, Bernie, Logan, Dana)

These are the 5 people that live closest to me (John, Robert, Bernie, Logan, Dana)

Happy Hannukah!

Happy Hannukah!

I took a picture of the latkes, but am unsatisfied with the quality of the photo so I will not post it… but I assure you, they were there! And they were delicious! Quickly consumed by the gang. Cooking for everyone is a lot of work, and I’ve done it several times now… but I really enjoy it! Making good food and feeding people makes me happy… I think I am similar to my grandmothers that way… unless it’s just a thing that once you turn into a grandma you suddenly love cooking for everyone? Does that mean I’m already a grandma?! Probably.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention…. just a week before this dinner was the first (and so far, only) snow day in my town! Though my smartphone is telling me it’s supposed to snow tomorrow… let’s see how smart it really is…

This was my first time witnessing snowfall! Briefly, on my way to Israel in 2010 I did see it snow for a couple of minutes from the window in the airport in Canada during my layover, but I don’t count it because I didn’t get to go outside and fully experience it. It was quite perfect it snowed that day because I was actually having a rough day and the snow was very peaceful and calming and just a perfect way to remind me of why I’m here and to enjoy the simple pleasures and new experiences that I’m having while here. My co-teacher also took me to pick up a package from the post office and then to buy chocolates and sweets and snacks to “celebrate” my first snow. She didn’t even know I was having a rough day, but it’s funny how the smallest things can make you so happy and the person doesn’t even know what an impact they are having.

snow wipersDSCN6783DSCN6786

Last week I hosted my co-workers for dinner! Well… two of them are my co-workers, the other two work at another school. My co-teacher, Jin Woo, is married to my friend’s co-teacher, Jin Hee. Jin Hee and John work at an elementary school in the next little town over, about 10 min by bus. Yuni shares an office with me and she is such a great person to spend time with. Even though she is a lot older than me we really connect in many different ways and we share a similar sense of humor. She also has two really adorable kids who have been fun to spend time with as well.

DSCN6811

Me, Yuni, Jin Hee

John & Jin Woo (my co-teacher)

John & Jin Woo (my co-teacher)

If you look at the above picture you will see some of the many delicious things I made… including homemade hummus (which I like to pronounce chhhhhummus and everyone makes fun of me… it is the correct way! and it just comes out naturally, okay?!) I am going to attempt to make pita next time as well. For all of my guests, this was their first authentic mediterranean meal ever! As I’ve said before, I get very excited to introduce people to new foods that they can enjoy.

My menu consisted of:
– Schnitzel – basically breaded chicken
– Couscous – with roasted corn and onions
– Israeli(ish) salad – Tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, carrots (there was supposed to be cucumbers, but I forgot to buy them) with traditional dressing of olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper.
– Squash – with butter, maple syrup, sugar sauce
– Hummus – Chick peas, tahini, garlic, lemon, salt, olive oil, paprika (no za’atar, boo hoo) this was more work than I thought, but I think mostly because I don’t have a big blender so I had to keep scooping it in and out to make a creamy texture.

To make this meal I had to buy a large portion of the ingredients online or at an international market in Seoul… but it was so worth it. In my very humble opinion, the food was pretty delicious and lasted me the rest of the week!

I’ll take a moment to also give props to my sous chef, John (who will most likely never read this), but helped me out… probably would have had dinner at 10pm if I made all of this on my own (I don’t get home from work until about 5:30pm).

foodDSCN6809

The following day was elections for the new President in South Korea… unfortunately the person that most of the people I know were rooting for did not win. My knowledge of politics in Korea is limited, and one of my co-workers was even saying that she is embarrassed and ashamed of the political system here… but it sounds like bad news now that this woman won. Her father was a dictator that wouldn’t give up his position until he was assassinated… and he’s also responsible for killing groups of people that were protesting against him. I’m not sure the exact year of this, but her father was President from 1961-1979. Now you are supposed to have a new election every 5 years, but I guess there is concern that she’s just going to keep on going. I’ve also heard that history text books are going to be re-written in the next year or two and paint a portrait of her father as a very kind and caring President who did no wrong… so strange to me, this would never fly in the US (at least not now). There’s also no protesting or sharing your opinions regarding the government if it is negative. Especially teachers have to remain completely neutral… basically there isn’t really freedom of speech when it comes to the government. I’m not sure what the laws are in the US, but I know from elementary school all the way through college my teachers and professors were openly expressing their opinions regarding current events… It was clear it was their opinion, and they maybe sort of kind of tried to be subtle about it sometimes, but not really. The same day that it was announced she won, there was 1 person who went to jail and 3 people who were sued. These people have podcasts and are sort of like Jon Stewart or Steve Colbert (at least from what I understood).

All of this is very interesting to me… it’s so different from how things would go down back in the States. There are certainly many things I don’t appreciate and/or agree with when it comes to how things are run by our government, but we are lucky… we can live very free lives at home. Of course I understood the concept, but I think the true meaning of that never sunk in until I’ve lived here. Then again, I’m a middle-class white girl born in USA, so maybe other people in the U.S. still feel differently?

Anyway! I was going to write about my weekend skiing… very briefly, I’m not so great at skiing, I might try it again and give it another chance… but it definitely doesn’t go under my list of “favorite things to do in Korea.” I’m reeeeally looking forward to warmer weather and going to the beach and going hiking… I really love hiking!

Patient Teacher Steph and wobbly Maya

Patient Teacher Steph and wobbly Maya

Definitely fell many, many times… but the snow is soft and fluffy and I didn’t mind it… actually the hardest part about the whole things was getting up! Your feet are glued to the skiis in a very tight boot, so you are sort of immobile once you’re on your ass. Gotta work on those abs and my core! That is also where I saw the most improvement, by the end of the day I was able to stand up on my own with little issues after falling! haha.

This upcoming weekend I’m going to meet up with some friends in Daejeon… a city 6 hours away from me that I know pretty much nothing about… so should be interesting! I have no clue what I’ll be doing for New Years yet, but hopefully I will be breaking the curse of getting the stomach flu every year! I don’t even know how many years that’s happened, I lost count it’s been so many times, but I’m going to take a guess and say for the last 5 years or more I’ve unfailingly gotten the stomach flu on New Years… no freakin’ clue how or why… do you think the Universe is telling me something, if so… what?

Thanks for reading my post!

As always, please feel free to leave a comment/question/suggestion, anything!
I take the time to write these, so it’s nice to know somebody is reading :)

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Hope you’re all enjoying the holidays!
Happy Hannukah
Merry Christmas
Happy Kwanza
Happy New Year!!! :)

Keep in touch and I hope we all welcome 2013 with open minds and hearts. May we each continue to have wonderful, fulfilling experiences in our everyday lives, whether they are big or small. Take a moment not only to appreciate your family and friends, but appreciate yourself and the control you have to take yourself wherever you want to go.

One of my favorite quotes is by Dr. Suess… so simple, yet so true:
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” – For realz though, Dr. Suess knows what he’s talkin’ about.

I’ll leave you with this video about Christmas in Korea from an extremely popular blog: http://www.eatyourkimchi.com

About mshahar6

I'm 25 years old, graduated from UCSB with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Education and Applied Psychology. I was working as a Behavior Interventionist for the last 4 years and decided to do something completely out of my comfort zone and teach English in South Korea for a year! I thought it'd be fun to document my experience, travels, growth, and keep my friends and family in the loop with this blog. Who know where this adventure may lead me?
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